Disney contracts with Windsor company to produce activity books for the blind

A Windsor firm gets a contract to produce activity books for the blind and visually impaired for Disney.

The first few books expected to be ready by end of January

Emmanuel Blaevoet works on a prototype of a page from one of several Disney activity books he and his wife Rebecca Blaevoet are producing for the Disney Corporation. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Soon children with visual impairments across North America will get to "see" what Mickey Mouse "looks like" thanks to the efforts of a Windsor couple.

Rebecca and Emmanual Blaevoet run Tactile Vision Graphics on Erie Street East.

The shop creates greeting cards, maps, colouring books and other publications in braille for the blind and visually impaired.

About four years ago, they got the idea to approach the Disney Corporation to produce a series of activity books for children featuring Disney characters. It took a year and half to put together and they just signed an agreement the first week in January.

"We got in touch with the people at consumer products and interactive media and they were on board," said Rebecca Blaevoet​.

Emmanuel Blaevoet said he's in the phase of designing the first book.

"They gave me access to their portal of tens of thousands of designs. My jaw just dropped," he said.

Puzzles, colouring for children

The couple is contracted to produce 15 different books over three years. The first ones are expected to be ready at the end of the month.

The books will feature the classic Disney characters such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy.

The rest will coincide with the release of new Disney movies.

Children will find puzzles, pictures to colour and other interactive materials that can be used in schools — or just for fun — in the books.

Rebecca Blaevoet demonstrates how blind people use special books to colour with. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

"Teachers can develop the activities around what's in the books, so they'll have three or four different kinds of activities in the same book with a Disney theme," said Rebecca.

First in Disney's history

The books are printed with a process that raises the pictures on the pages so the children can feel the outlines.

"The blind user will actually be able to see, for want of a better word, what Mickey Mouse looks like," said Emmanuel.

The Blaevoets have the licence to publish the materials for the entire North American continent, which Rebecca estimates is a market of about 700,000 people in Canada and ten times that in the U.S.

"So now it's just a question of getting it out to schools and libraries and stores that sell blindness-related products and stores that sell Disney-related products," said Rebecca, adding that they will also be available online.

This is the first time in Disney's 90-year history to produce materials like this for the blind and visually impaired.

"So these learning activity books are going to be a really wonderful window into the world of Disney," said Rebecca.


Dale Molnar

Video Journalist

Dale Molnar is a video journalist at CBC Windsor. He is a graduate of the University of Windsor and has worked in television, radio and print. He has received a number of awards including an RTDNA regional TV news award and a New York Festivals honourable mention.